Minneapolis Protesters Swarm Target Center Ahead of Trump Rally
The conflict and Twitter battles arrived in Minnesota well ahead of President Donald Trump’s touchdown in the state.
Trump traded Twitter insults with the Minneapolis mayor over who should pay more than $500,000 in security costs for Thursday’s rally at a downtown arena. He denounced Jacob Frey as a “Radical Left” lightweight and blasted the Democrat for a police policy banning officers from wearing their uniforms in support of political candidates. He sprinkled in a reference to his favorite foil — the city’s Rep. Ilhan Omar — just for good measure.
“Yawn,” Frey tweeted back. “Welcome to Minneapolis where we pay our bills, we govern with integrity, and we love all of our neighbors.”
It was just a warmup to Trump’s first campaign rally since being engulfed in the swirl of an impeachment investigation, an event expected to pack an extra punch. Heading to Omar’s home turf, a liberal outpost in the Midwest, Trump quickly stirred up passions and partisanship as few politicians can.
Trump will land in Minnesota as polls show Americans’ support for impeachment and for removing him from office have ticked up in the weeks since House Democrats launched an impeachment investigation. While his GOP allies have launched a campaign to reverse the trend, Trump’s self-defense may be the best preview of how he intends to fight back in the weeks ahead.
“He needs to be able to show right now, given all of this impeachment stuff, that America is rallying to his defense. And I don’t think that that is going to be the optic that’s created,” said Ken Martin, the state Democratic chairman.
Both sides are tuned in to the symbolism of the moment. The rally at Target Center— the city’s basketball arena— is expected to draw thousands of supporters as well as protesters outside. Trump will be joined by Vice President Mike Pence, who had a separate schedule of appearances in the state Trump is trying to tip his way next year.
At a White House event Wednesday, Trump made it clear he was looking forward to the rally.
“I think it’s a great state, and we’re going to have a lot of fun tomorrow night,” he said.
Minneapolis is a difficult place for the president to try to bask in the glow of support. Trump won just 18% of the vote in the dense, relatively diverse and liberal congressional district where he’s staging his rally.
But the venue serves another purpose: The district is now held by Omar, the Somali-American lawmaker whom Trump often holds up as a symbol of the liberal shift in the Democratic Party. It’s a message viewed as racist by some. He has tweeted that Omar should “go back” to her home country if she wants to criticize the U.S. Trump supporters broke into chants of “Send her back!” at a rally this summer in North Carolina.
The episode is weighing heavily on Trump’s Thursday rally. It drew criticism from fellow Republicans uncomfortable with the prospect of putting race at the center of the campaign.
Some lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and some of the president’s closest outside advisers privately warned Trump about the damage those chants could inflict on the GOP, according to four Republicans close to the White House who were not authorized to discuss private conversations. They believed the sight of thousands of mostly white attendees chanting “Send her back!” would dominate news coverage and turn off moderate voters, particularly women and suburbanites.
Trump has held four rallies since. The chant has not erupted since.
Still, the attacks on the “socialist” wing of the Democratic Party are the heart of Trump’s plan to hold onto the Rust Belt and become the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Minnesota since Richard Nixon in 1972. Trump fell about 45,000 votes short of beating Democrat Hillary Clinton statewide in 2016. He’s had staff in the state since June, and they have been busy building a network to turn out supporters next November.
The campaign needs to pump up Trump’s support in the rural and suburban areas he carried in 2016 to overcome Democratic strength in Minneapolis, St. Paul and some other cities, plus suburbs that swung Democratic in 2018. The Minneapolis rally will also win media coverage well into western Wisconsin, widely seen as a critical battleground in 2020.
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